It wasn't always pretty for Brazil, but the home side managed to survive a stiff test from Uruguay in a Confederations Cup semifinal, winning 2-1 and advancing to the championship game.
A late goal from Paulinho off a corner kick sealed the deal, while Fred scored his third goal of the tournament late in the first half. Edinson Cavani broke his scoreless drought, scoring the lone goal for Uruguay.
The stat line may suggest that Brazil dominated this game, holding 68 percent of possession and firing off 19 shots (eight on target) to Uruguay's nine (four on target), but Uruguay was extremely solid defensively, maintained an organized shape and looked dangerous on the counter throughout.
And Uruguay should have had the game's first goal. After David Luiz was given a yellow card for pulling down Diego Lugano in the box in the 13th minute, the ever-dangerous Diego Forlan stepped up to take the penalty kick.
But Julio Cesar was up to the challenge, reading Forlan's intentions the entire time and making a diving save on the Uruguayan's low effort.
The first 30 minutes were a rather spotty affair, as Uruguay clogged up the midfield and frustrated Brazil's attackers. The visiting team seemed plenty content to send speculative balls into the box, hoping their trio of dangerous forwards could create a chance in the air.
Brazil didn't have many clear chances early, and it was Forlan who would once again nearly score in the 30th minute, swerving a shot from atop the box just over the bar after Cristian Rodríguez found him with room to fire.
Brazil continued to ask questions, however, and Oscar nearly picked out Fred with a low centering feed in front of goal in the 37th minute. From a tough angle, however, Fred's chip sailed well over the bar.
But as it has so often in this tournament, the magic of Neymar would lead to a Brazilian goal in the 41st minute.
After deftly chesting and controlling a Paulinho pass that had been sent over the Uruguayan defense, Neymar attempted to chip the ball over Fernando Muslera. The keeper managed to deflect the effort but the ball fell to Fred in the center of the box, who promptly karate kicked home the game's first goal.
As was the theme for Uruguay in the first 45 minutes, Luis Suarez would miss an opportunity to equalize right before the half, pushing his shot from the center of the box wide to the right. Uruguay often looked the better side in the first half, but would head to the locker room lamenting chances left wanting.
Uruguay's first-half deficit didn't bode well for their chances to win, as Paul Carr of ESPN noted:
Brazil promptly gave the lead away in the 48th minute, however.
Uruguay did well to work the ball into the box but seemingly couldn't penetrate the Brazilian defense. However, with plenty of chances to clear the ball out of danger, Brazil's defenders instead continued to try to play the ball out of the back. Eventually, the ball landed on Cavani's left foot and he didn't disappoint, beating Cesar to the wide post with a low strike.
It was a much-needed goal for Cavani, who hadn't played particularly well in the tournament up to that point.
Both teams nearly scored in quick succession in the 66th minute. Forlan's brilliant, curling free kick in the box missed Luis Suarez's head but found Thiago Silva's, and the Brazilian defender nearly headed the ball into his own goal, sending it just over the bar.
After Brazil cleared the ensuing break, they rushed forward on the counter-attack. Bernard played a lovely centering feed from the right wing to Fred, but the forward blasted a one-time shot well over the net.
Bernard's substitution into this match for Hulk—who was pretty much a non-factor in this game—was quite popular with Ives Galarcep of Soccer By Ives:
In the 86th minute, Brazil would get the game-winning goal.
After Brazil earned a corner, Neymar stepped up and whipped the free kick to the far corner. There, Paulinho rose above the Uruguayan defense and headed home the winner.
Uruguay couldn't manage to find an equalizer in the late stages, as Brazil's players would celebrate in front of their countrymen after advancing to the final.
Man of the Match: Neymar
This wasn't Neymar's best performance by any stretch of the imagination, as Uruguay contained him for much of the match. But in the end, it was Neymar who got the assist on both of Brazil's goals.
According to WhoScored, he had 67 total touches in the game, an 85 percent pass-completion percentage, four shots and a 7.2 match rating. Again, it wasn't a vintage performance, but in the end he assisted on both of the team's goals.
Paulinho, Fred and Luiz Gustavo were also very good for Brazil, while Cavani easily played his finest game in this tournament for Uruguay.
However, it wasn't all beautiful play from Neymar, who committed a blatant dive to try and draw a foul.
Brazil will face the winner of Spain vs. Italy in the Confederations Cup final, while Uruguay awaits the loser in the third-place game.
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